Homily Ė Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Our first reading is a prophesy predicting the Messiah. Through the Prophet Isaiah, the people of Israel were told what to look for in order to recognize the Messiah when he came. They were looking for the chosen one. Why? Because he would usher in the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. He would bring justice to the nations. He would establish justice on the earth. He would be a new covenant that would bring his people from darkness into the light. He would give sight to the blind and free prisoners from their captivity. All of these promises were hoped for and why the Messiah was anxiously awaited. Our first reading tells us that one way to recognize him is that he will be the chosen one, with whom God is well pleased and Godís spirit shall rest upon him.
We see the fulfillment of this prophesy in the Gospel today. When Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened, the spirit of God rested upon him and God spoke saying ďYou are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.Ē God always keeps his promises. From generation to generation God is constantly calling us. Just look at what we see here today. All of these signs we have seen before and today they are being fulfilled in a new way. The Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove. The emerging of new hope and a new covenant from the waters. In the beginning of time when God created the world, the spirit hovered over the waters and God created man and the world. In the Waters of the great flood God destroyed a world of sin and after 40 days and 40 nights the waters began to flow off of creation. A dove was sent out and returned with an olive branch. God began a new covenant with man and the olive branch and dove became signs of peace. The world was cleanse from sin in the waters of the flood and a new beginning was made.
To understand the New Testament we must look to the old for God does not change his mind or his promises from the Old Testament. He fulfills them in the new. What was veiled to our eyes is now revealed in the light of Christ. Christ being baptized in the Jordan is a new fulfillment of promises made long ago. New Creation, cleansing from sin, a new covenant, freedom from captivity and enlightenment of hearts. These are the things that Christ accomplishes in his baptism in the Jordan. Not for himself but for us.
When Christ was baptized in the Jordan he unlocked for us the gate to heaven. Christ was without sin and did not need to be baptized but he did so to give sacramental power to the waters of baptism. As St. Augustine said: Christ was baptized so he might freely proclaim through his humility what was for us a necessity. Although Christ didnít need it he went down into the waters of baptism to show us that we should as well. As he arose and the waters receded from his flesh, the spirit hovered over the waters. It was a sign of a new creation and a new covenant that would be instituted through the sacrament of baptism.
Due to original sin we are a people born in darkness, blind to the Godís love, and prisoners and slaves to sin. Christ, through is baptism, gives to the waters of baptism that power to overcome these. And in this he fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah. He is set as a covenant of the people, a light to the nations in darkness, he opens our eyes blinded by sin with faith, and frees us from the bondage of original sin. We a people born in darkness are enlightened through out baptism and carry the light of faith in our hearts.
We are born in a state of original sin. We have a block in our soul that doesnít allow us to receive Godís love fully. We need baptism to remove this block so our souls can bear fruit. As. St. Irenaeus said: ďJust as the parched land does not yield its fruits if it does not get water, so also we who were like dried sticks can produce fruits of life only if we receive freely the gentle and abundant rainfall of grace from on high.Ē Through baptism this block is washed away, we receive Godís grace and divine life dwelling in us. We are cleansed from the stain of original sin. We receive the gifts of the holy spirit. And we become a truly new creations; sons and daughters of God. We are born spiritually to supernatural life as we die to the life of sin.
St. Paul tells us in the second reading of this new life we are to lead. It is a life open to all who desire it. It is a life that, if we let it, trains us to reject Godless ways and worldly desires. The grace of baptism and the gifts of the holy spirit dwelling in our souls allow us to await with hope to live temperately, justly and devoutly. Baptism has the power to deliver us from lawlessness and cleans us to make us people of God. Not because of what we do but because of Godís mercy. He allows us to be reborn to eternal life through baptism and renewed by the Holy Spirit. We become justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.
That is the incredible gift that each one of us receives at our baptism. Often times it is a gift we leave unwrapped though. A gift we leave sitting in a closet. Sometimes it is even a gift we reject by committing mortal sin and turning our backs radically on God. A gift is of no use unless it is used and it is used according to its purpose. If someone gave you a car it would be a nice gift but it would be pretty silly if you used it as a paper weight rather than as a means of transportation. The same is true of the gift of baptism. If baptism is something we receive at one time, then we leave it in the closet or simply use it as a nice ceremony for our children then it is not going to have a tremendous effect in our life. Are the gifts of the Holy spirit gathering dust in the closet of your hearts? Do we even know what the gifts are? Have we unwrapped them? Does the light of your Catholic faith shine brightly for all to see or is it flickering dimly in your hearts.
In order to life a full Christian life we must be aware of the gifts we have been given. We must make a conscious effort to cultivate these gifts and use them for the purpose for which they have been given. We must not only discover what gifts we have but consciously ask God to allow them to bear fruit in our lives. We must cultivate the gardens of our soul through the sacraments and actively ask God to strengthen us in the areas we are weak. We cannot know that unless we are constantly examining ourselves and looking for ways in which to Grow.
As we begin this year I want to encourage you again to put your spiritual life as your first priority. No matter how great a life you have on this planet, it is worthless if the price you have to pay is eternal life. Eternal life isnít owed to us and we must never presume it is ours if we donít follow the teachings of Godís Church. Put your spiritual life in order and the things of this world will naturally fall into their proper place. Learn of the gifts you have been given at Baptism. I suggest reading the Catechism on baptism. The unwrap those gifts and put them to use. Cultivate them and let them grow. Donít leave them dusty in a darkened heart but let your light shine before others.
You have everything you need within you if you are willing to accept the gifts fully and allow them to work in your life. Thank God for the incredible gift of your baptism and thank him by using that gift for his greater glory and your salvation.

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